Restaurant and Bar Albora

This is the tapas bar and new restaurant of José Gomez, the owner of the Joselito Iberico Pata Negra firm. I have gotten to know him over my recent trips to Spain and his chef, David Garcia (who trained at the 3-star Martin Berasatequi restaurant in San Sebastian as well as at El Bulli), prepared an incredible lunch with the finest seafood from Galicia and elsewhere in Spain, along with a roasted shoulder of the famous black pig served with Spanish black truffles over mashed potatoes, which was a killer dish in all respects. However, the seafood from Galicia is reputed to be some of the finest in the world, and it is hard to argue that. We started with a trilogy of 2008, 2006 and 2005 Gran Reservas from Joselito. They were all slightly different with the intensity of flavor increasing as the hams got slightly older, but the differences were minor. I learned that the five year old ham is every bit as good as the one held slightly longer, the eight year old 2005 Grand Reserva. Of course, this is the best ham in the world and I don’t think anyone would dispute that. Joselito is considered by insiders as the greatest purveyor of these legendary black pigs. We also had the famous baby eels called Pibales (which were in season) and they were cooked perfectly with plenty of garlic and pimento. The Belon oysters were super fresh and tasted as if they were totally composed of seawater. The Spider crab was a high point. This Galician specialty, served with a soup that will challenge all the flora in your intestinal tract, was filled with flavor. This gigantic Spider crab must have weighed 7 or 8 pounds given how much meat was available in the legs and claws. The small red shrimp were simply prepared and full of flavor. Goose barnacles and cockles were slightly more challenging, although I do love the goose barnacles from Galicia. They are wonderfully chewy and far better than anything you can find in the Caribbean where the closest thing to them in terms of texture and flavor is probably the famous conch. The cockles are somewhat of an acquired taste, and just a bit too over the top for me in flavor. That was quickly corrected by remarkable purple clams. Almost neon purple in color, they were steamed with garlic and were incredibly tender and rich ... possible the finest clams I have ever eaten. We followed that with the piece de la resistance, the shoulder from the black Iberico Bellota pigs, which were roasted and served with black truffles (also superb) over mashed potatoes. This was a sumptuous dish, and the abundance of the black truffles was over the top, but the flavor of the roasted pork was terrific. We finished with a specialty of José Gomez, his orange flan layered cake. I am not generally a dessert eater, but this was very special.

As for the wines, we started with a fabulous wine that I would drink a lot more of if it were not so expensive, the 2000 Dom Perignon Rosé Champagne. That was followed by one of my favorite Spanish indigenous varietals from Valdeorras, the 2011 Avanthia Godelo, which is full, but very crisp with lots of citrus and mineral. Three old vine Grenache cuvées followed. The 2011 Breca Garnacha from Calatayud was sensational, but it clearly had to take a back seat to the 2011 Alto Moncayo Garnacha from Campo de Borja and the profound/prodigious 2010 Aquilon Garnacha also from Campo de Borja. Both of these were fabulous, densely colored, rich wines with lots of kirsch, lavender, garrigue, pepper and super glycerin levels (no doubt indicating the alcohols were in the 14.5-15.5% range). Just to make sure we couldn’t move without assistance, José Gomez prepared his famous Gin and Tonic Beefeater 24, which was sensational. I think this special cuvée of Beefeater also exists in the United States. To my surprise, we were told that the biggest market for gin is Spain, with Madrid and Barcelona topping the sales of high quality gin in the world! We finished with something I am trying to track down for my personal use, an absolutely extraordinarily perfumed, intense, silky gin called Monkey 47, which is made in Germany’s Black Forest. Packaged in a small 500 liter bottle, it is not that expensive (approximately $100), but it was a remarkable gin. In Europe it is apparently available at top liquor shops, so if you can find it, it is an astonishing gin.

This fabulous 5 hour lunch is a candidate for the meal of the year.

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